Memories in March (2011)-Movie Review

Deepti Naval
Deepti Naval

April 4, 2011 (Calcutta Tube): Memories in March is a  2011 movie directed by Sanjoy Nag with Deepti Naval, Raima Sen, Rituparno Ghosh in lead roles. Read the film review at Calcutta Tube.

MEMORIES IN MARCH – MEMORABLE

  • Banner: Shree Venkatesh Films
  • Producers: Shikant Mohra and Mahendra Soni
  • Director: Sanjoy Nag
  • D.O.P.: Soumik Haldar
  • Music: Debojyoti Mishra
  • Story, lyrics and screenplay: Rituparno Ghosh
  • Cast: Deepti Naval, Raima Sen and Rituparno Ghosh
  • Language: Partially in Hindi
  • Date of release: April 1, 2011
  • Rating: 07/10

 

Memories in March released in India on April 1, 2011. Facilitating the simultaneous worldwide release is US-based Databazaar Media Ventures which is making the film available on its IPTV channel Databazaar Media, as well as on its web streaming portal, Dingora.com.

Complete Gallery

Rituparno Ghosh, Deepti Naval

Memories in March challenges the viewer in terms of its ‘look.’ Simply stated, it is difficult to talk about the ‘look’ of a film because though it is the visual impression and style that forms the primary basis of a film, the ‘look’ reaches beyond visuals to encompass an array of related stylistic features. The ‘look’ of films therefore, includes its visual composition but much more than that such as – the sound design, the music, the dialogue, the production design, the colour, the lyrics and the song.

 

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So where does this challenge lie? It lies in the fact that it keeps the protagonist, Siddharth, whose accidental death forms the beginning of the film and also the core of the story, is absent from the visual frame of the entire film. Yet, his presence is strongly felt through his voice, through his mother’s interactions with his lover, his girlfriend, his flat, his material possessions, etc. In this sense, Memories in March hark back to films that feature an ‘absent’ character seen earlier in Shaji Karun’s Piravi, Mrinal Sen’s Ek Din Pratidin and Ek Din Achanak and Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Mathilukal.

 

For a first-time director, Sanjoy Nag takes on the challenge and fulfills it neatly. In a straightforward narrative, the audience is introduced to the fifty-ish Arti Mishra (Deepti Naval) waiting at the Delhi airport for a Kolkata-bound flight. She is going to attend the last rites of her only son Siddharth who died a car crash in the middle of the night, driving into grilled iron fencing, sozzled to his eyeballs. She tells the couple she meets that her son is dead, but more as a way of unburdening herself of the pain than to evoke their sympathy. She is met with by her son’s colleague Sahana (Raima Sen) who then takes her to a waiting car belonging to Siddharth’s boss Ornob Mitra (Rituparno Ghosh). On the way, Ornob, trying to stifle his yawns, fills in the details in a voice choked with unshed tears. At the crematorium, she sits on a concrete slab, looking on at the river flowing by. Inside her son’s flat, she finally finds the space to give in to her grief, breaking down as she opens the freezer of his refrigerator and looks as the ice-tray wondering whether the son felt the cold as he lay on the ice slab in the morgue, waiting for his mother. The voice-over of Siddharth wanders across the apartment, carried over from his numerous e-mails and messages he texted her through his cell phone. Her attempts to inform her husband fail as the plastic and staccato voice of the answering machine blocks them with the ease of technically efficient gizmos.

 

The losing of her only child in the prime of his life is not the only tragedy Arti has to encounter. She is shocked to learn, all on a sudden when Sahana blurts it out without intending to, that Siddharth was in a relationship with Ornob, his boss. And she did not have the slightest clue about this though she felt her son did not keep secrets from his mother. Her grief is now replaced by anger and condemnation of the two people closest to her son, his ‘family’ away from home, for allowing him to go on drinking, for not stopping him from driving away, and for not accompanying him knowing he was drunk. She almost begins to hate Ornob hinting at his having ‘seduced’ her son. How this relationship evolves into something very positive and lasting is what Memories in March sets out to show.

 

It is about memories that are selective, exclusive, fragmented and dispersed between and among the closest people to the one who is no more. They do not belong entirely to a mother who did not know that her son was gay. The grief and vacuum that the loss creates also builds a bridge between and among Arti, Ornob and Sahana, three very different people in terms of ideology, in terms of the social spaces they occupy, in terms of the values they uphold and in terms of the lifestyles they lead. Through the slowly evolving bond that develops between Ornob and Arti over the story’s brief, three-day span, the audience is witness to how a homophobic interacts with a heterogeneous person – erasing forthwith, all ideas about ‘difference’.

 

Rituparno Ghosh as Ornob expresses himself through his body language, his somewhat shy demeanour when he talks to her about his relationship with her son, unable to meet her in the eye, angered when she talks about her son’s ‘abnormality’ expressing it by looking away, struggling like a child to grab her photograph as a young woman Siddharth pinned up on his board in his office cubicle; breaking into tears and allowing them to flow freely in the privacy of his car with a sympathetic driver trying to put in a kind word.  Surrendering to her request to take away the fish aquarium against his belief that no living thing, including fish should be forced to live inside boxes. In one scene, he gently points out to her that the dressing gown she is wearing was a gift from Siddharth to him. This performance makes one question whether Rituparno excels himself as an actor over his directorial skills.

 

Deepti Naval as Arti Mishra gives him tough competition and complements his vacillating temperament with equal restraint and command over the character. They both love the same old song from a Hindi film that goes yeh raatein yeh mausam nadi ka kinara yeh chanchal hawa and they sing it together, tunelessly but happy. She brings the character alive with soft, low-key flourishes – listening to her son’s imaginary voice over the cell-phone; reading a SMS much after he had sent it – to finally reveal the secret of his love-life to her; bursting out ‘what?’ loudly enough for the office staffers to look down and see what is wrong when Sahana tells her; She is confused when she finds Ornob so familiar with everything in her son’s flat. She is open in her affection in that tender scene where, towards the end, she passes a caressing hand over Ornob’s bald pate, smiles and says, ‘Taklu”. One immediately catches on to the bonding that has evolved between these two different people from two different worlds within a brief span of three days from a hate-hate relationship to one of friendship.

Raima is a picture of sophisticated modernity that cleverly hides a kind heart, dressed to suit her profession. She is spontaneous and natural blending into the scenario beautifully, not allowing the pain of having lost a loved one to show. Why Sucheta Roy Choudhury (who plays Raima’s mother)’s voice had to be dubbed by Mithu Chakraborty remains a mystery. But both Rajat Ganguly and Roy Choudhury are very good as her parents in brief cameos.

 

Sanjoy’s attention to precise details of filmmaking is surprisingly observant considering this is his first film. The luxurious flat spells out the details filled in by Siddharth’s voice-over that keeps haunting Aarti as she wanders from room to room, trying to find out the right light switch, the list of telephone numbers that will show her the number she is seeking, a packet of condoms she discovers that temporarily appease her fears of the son being gay, never mind that he is dead, the fish aquarium that has not been tended to, the belongings she wants to take back with her and the ones she wants to leave behind. What ‘belongings’? Are all memories imprisoned in tangible goods? Not at all, she realises when Ornob tells her about gifts to be forgotten once you have given them away. “I do not need physical proof of our relationship,” he tells her once. Yet, to make her happy, he agrees to take the fish tank with him.

 

The film suffers from the burden of too much dialogue and too much of opinionated comments by Ornob never mind how philosophical they are because they do not belong to the story and also, slow down the pace of the film. The flashbacks into the car crash are captured in monochromic long shots, slightly blurred, as a cinematic punctuation mark and a repeated metaphor. Soumik Haldar’s camera pans across the riverside beside the crematorium. It thrives on interior spaces and close-ups than on mid-shots and long-shot, rarely stepping out to capture the spaces of the city. The grilled iron fencing the car dashed into is mended in the end drawing parallels with the mending of the relationship between Arti and Ornob, complete strangers now turned into solid friends.. The partly open door of the flat echoes with sounds and sights of uniformed children rushing up and down the staircase. A group of children ask Arti to throw the ball back at them from the balcony.

 

Debojyoti Mishra’s musical score is outstanding in its ability to both enrich and empower the film’s aesthetics on the one had and its message on the other. The strains of one Tagore song, one Hindi song written by Rituparno Ghosh and one song sung by Suubhomita in Brajabhasha spelling out the sad love story of Radha and Krishna are mesmerising and the only time when the camera pans across the outdoors.

– Shoma A. Chatterji

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